MEC Ottawa Race 4 consisted of four events: 50 km, 30 km, 20 km and 10 km. It was located in Gatineau Park at Camp Fortune. It worked out well for us because Diane happened to be in Ottawa for the week leading up to the race. Diane registered for the 30k and I registered for the 20k. The weekend started with a long drive by myself up to Ottawa. The 401 was closed around Port Hope, so I elected to take the more scenic route along Hwy 7. It was a long drive and in spite of the long weekend traffic, I managed to make it to Holiday Inn in about 5 hours and 20 minutes. We had a nice dinner at Lone Star next to the hotel and headed straight to bed.
On Saturday morning we drove to downtown Ottawa and parked underground at city hall (a bargain at $2 for the entire day). We took a nice walk over to Bank St for some shopping at Sports 4 and then headed off to Bier Markt on Sparks St for lunch. After lunch we spent some time wandering around the locks at the foot of the Rideau Canal and headed over to Byward Market, including the cafe that was made famous by President Obama’s visit. Remeber the Obama cookies?
On Sunday morning we woke up bright and early and drove to Camp Fortune. It is a ski resort in the winter and in the summer it serves outdoor adventure seekers with activities such as mountain biking, trail running and zip-lining. The 30k race started with the 50k group at 7:45. The racers headed up the ski hill and did a loop around Camp Fortune before they headed out on the main course. I waved at Diane as she ran by the start line and she saw me too and waved back.
My race started 15 minutes later at 8:00. It was a long climb out up along the ski hills for the first 3 km until the first aid station. I met my goal of not crashing during the first km of the race and managed to fall on my face at 1.5 km. One of my fellow racers consoled me by saying that she almost fell over during the group stretching and warm-up at the start line. I wasn’t in bad shape after all. I just had some scrapes on my knee and my elbow was bleeding a bit. It’s funny because we had actually freaked ourselves out a bit by looking at the course elevation map with all the hills and steep grades, but in the end, the course ended up being way more run-able than we thought. There were indeed a lot of steep climbs and descents along the Gatineau ridge line, but there was also a lot of time spent on gravel camp roads. The organizers had to do some last-minute re-routing of the course due to heavy rains and erosion leading up to race day.
From about 5km to 9km it was a long, steady downhill into a valley. I was even fortunate enough to make a friend during that part of the course. Andrew and I stayed in front of or behind one another for about 4km and then we just struck up a conversation and raced side-by-side for about 30 minutes. We chatted about trail races and he offered me some beef jerky somewhere around aid station #2. Chatting with Andrew, I learned about a fall race in Quebec called the Mad Trapper. That is definitely something I will need to check out next year. The other thing that I noticed was that Andrew had some fly paper stuck to the top of his cap. There were no deer flies this day because it was a bit too cool but Andrew said that he runs Gatineau frequently and was saying that he would not have hesitated to forfeit his $20 entry fee if the bugs were going to be bad.
Diane actually thought she was lost on the course and even contemplated turning back at one point. It just happened that the course markers were a long ways apart at that point. She says she had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the climbs. In the end, Diane finished second in her age group.
For me, it was a solid run and at the end I felt way better than I did after the Albion Grind. The main difference was that it was a cooler day and the fact that I managed my nutrition much better. I stuck to my plan and took my first gel at the 50 minute mark and then had some more gels/chews at 30-minute intervals after that. The other thing that seemed to work was that I took two electrolyte capsules per hour (S!Caps).
The nice thing about finishing the race earlier than anticipated was that we got an early start on the long drive home. We took the 401 home and stopped-off at a couple of craft breweries in Kingston. First stop was at Riverhead Brewing Company which is just south of the 401. We first visited Riverhead on Canada Day about a month ago and we really enjoyed their Tropical IPA. The second stop was a small place near Bath called MacKinnion Brothers Brewing Company. We first learned about MacKinnon from Diane’s coach Derrick Spafford. It was a bit out of the way, but it was a gem and a great example of a small local business. They have a small shed where the sampling and bottling occurs and I was pleased to learn that they grow the hops right there on the farm.
It turns out that MacKinnon Bros. has their own outdoor music festival next weekend. It would have been great to attend, but won’t be possible since it is a bit far to venture away on my last weekend at home before moving to Wichita for a 9-month work assignment.
All-in-all, it was a great weekend and adds to our year of exploring eastern Ontario. The trail races and snowshoe races have been a really good excuse to get out and explore.